On Tuesday a bill passed the Illinois State House that would keep abortion legal in the state even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned by the Supreme Court — but Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a pro-choice Republican, has vowed to veto it.
The events in Illinois today are a perfect example of just why the focus of reproductive justice advocates and supporters needs to be fixed firmly on the states. While all eyes have been focused on the White House and Congress, state legislatures across the country have been proposing and passing bills to make access to abortion care even more difficult for those in need of it.
“Reproductive health and rights continue to be attacked by politicians at the state level,” Diane Horvath-Cosper, MD, the reproductive health advocacy fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Whether it’s interfering with the provider-patient relationship or trying to limit access to family planning, it is clear that attempts to dismantle access to women’s health care continue during this year’s legislative sessions.”
Or, as Nikki Madsen, the executive director of the Abortion Care Network, tells Yahoo Beauty, “there are some politicians who will stop at nothing to burden abortion care providers and bully people who need this care.”
Here’s a look at some of the bills that are currently moving — and some that have recently passed — and what you need to know about them.
In late March, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a number of antiabortion bills into law — including one that would require doctors to do everything possible to resuscitate an aborted fetus that is “born alive,” a term being defined by the state as any fetus born with a heartbeat and respiration, and having movement of voluntary muscles. Yet research shows that a fetus does not develop the nerves and neural capacity to experience pain until the third trimester, and a fetus is not traditionally thought of as viable outside the womb until 26 weeks gestational age. According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 1.3 percent of abortions in 2013 were performed after 21 weeks gestation.
“Arizona politicians need to get out of the exam room and start treating women and families with some basic human dignity,” says Madsen.
Two weeks ago, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a first-of-its-kind piece of legislation that would require doctors to investigate their patients’ medical histories before being able to provide a pregnant women with abortion care. Doctors who fail to adhere to the law could face up to a year of prison, $2,500 in fines, and civil penalties.
“In Arkansas, politicians want to turn abortion providers into the thought police,” muses Destiny Lopez, the co-director of All* Above All, a grass-roots organization that works to oppose all forms of bans on abortion coverage and to advocate for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. “It’s insulting, not to mention unworkable.”
The Kansas House recently passed legislation that would require women to receive written information — in 12-point type in black ink in the Times New Roman font — about abortion before being allowed to make a decision as to whether to have the procedure.
“Not content to only play doctor, politicians now want to be graphic designers too,” says Lopez.
And yet, as Horvath-Cosper notes, “a bright spot is that there are efforts at the state level to safeguard reproductive health, such as by enshrining the protections of the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision and protecting funding for the vital services Planned Parenthood provides. As physicians, we know that timely access to high-quality reproductive health care services is essential to women’s health.”
In March, lawmakers in the Oklahoma House passed a bill that would ban abortion solely on the basis of whether the fetus had a genetic abnormality, with no exceptions made even for cases of rape or incest. Now the Oklahoma State Senate is considering the measure. Should it pass, Oklahoma would be the third state in the U.S. with this kind of abortion ban.
“Abortion care providers treat their patients with compassion and respect; politicians have no place forcing them to target women with needless restrictions,” says Madsen of the Oklahoma bill.
A bill is headed to Gov. Steve Bullock’s desk to be signed into law that would restrict abortions and criminalize doctors by banning all abortion care performed after 24 weeks gestation, even in the event of a medical emergency. In situations where a woman’s life is endangered, she would then have to undergo a C-section or induced labor should there be at least a 50 percent chance that the fetus might survive outside the womb. Doctors who are found performing abortions after 24 weeks could face homicide charges.
Says Madsen, “It is not always possible for a woman to get an abortion as soon as she has made her decision. With this restriction, politicians are interfering with doctors’ ability to provide care that is right for their patients.”
A budget bill passed the Texas House two weeks ago that would divert $20 million from environmental regulators and instead direct that funding to “programs that critics accuse of coercing women against having abortions.” It now remains to be seen whether the budgeting provision will pass through the reconciliation process between the state’s House and Senate.
“Texas is in the middle of a maternal health crisis — but instead of funding programs to support women’s health, they’re spending precious resources lying to and coercing women,” notes Lopez.
The West Virginia Legislature is advancing a measure that would require minors to go to court to seek approval before being able to access abortion care. The bill is currently on the floor of the state Senate and is also being considered by a House committee, so it could be approved as soon as this week.
“It’s hard enough for a young person facing an unwanted pregnancy to get care — now they have to go to court?” says Lopez. “For young people from small towns, this undue burden is also a disaster for privacy.”
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